Bill Clinton responds to backlash over Monica Lewinsky apology, says he supports #MeToo

Erin Donnelly

Bill Clinton is walking back his heated statements about his affair with former intern Monica Lewinsky.

The former president said he did not owe Lewinsky an apology in a tense interview with NBC’s Craig Melvin, which aired on Today Monday morning.

“I do not,” Clinton responded when Melvin asked if Lewinsky was owed an apology over their sexual relationship, which resulted in his 1998 impeachment. “I’ve never talked to her. But I did say, publicly, on more than one occasion, that I was sorry.”

Bill Clinton’s comments have sparked controversy. (Photo: Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Images)
Bill Clinton’s comments have sparked controversy. (Photo: Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Images)

Clinton’s remarks sparked a huge backlash, with Donald Trump Jr. mocking him on Twitter for “claiming victim-hood from his actions against women” — a reaction that was swiftly rejected as hypocritical by critics citing President Trump‘s rumored affairs and allegations of sexual misconduct.

Actress Rose McGowan, who has been outspoken about her own alleged abuse at the hands of movie producer Harvey Weinstein, also slammed Clinton, calling him “selfish.”

Lewinsky, meanwhile, tweeted only that she was “grateful” for those who have supported her since the affair.

The uproar over his comments — and insistence that he had suffered financially and personally as a result of his affair — prompted Clinton to address the matter Monday night as he appeared with author James Patterson at an event at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York City. The men were on hand to promote their new book collaboration, The President Is Missing.

Author Walter Mosley, who was moderating the discussion, pressed Clinton on his Today show interview. The former president took the opportunity to clarify his remarks about apologizing to Lewinsky. Watch the full discussion here, with the comments regarding Lewinsky beginning around the 13-minute mark.)

“The truth is, the hubbub was I got hot under the collar because of the way the questions were asked,” Clinton said. “And I think what was lost were the two points that I made that are important to me. The suggestion was that I never apologized for what caused all the trouble for me 20 years ago.

“So first point is, I did. I meant it then, and I meant it now. I apologized to my family, to Monica Lewinsky and her family, and to the American people before a panel of ministers in the White House, which was widely reported. So I was… I did that. I meant it then, and I mean it today. I live with it all the time. 

“The second is that I support the #MeToo movement, and I think it’s long overdue,” he continued. “And I have always tried to support it in the decisions and policies that I’ve advanced. Beyond that, I think it would be good if we could go on with the discussion.”

Clinton’s comments have been met with a variety of responses, with some arguing that he shouldn’t have to apologize for a consensual affair, and others calling him out for not taking any responsibility for his actions.

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